Sean Turnell’s Vandalism in Myanmar


Above: Sean Turnell (at right) alongside billionaire shopping centre magnate Frank Lowy, founder of the neo-conservative think tank the Lowy Institute, and Aung Sung Suu Kyi.

06-10-2022: If we were to believe the corporate media, Australian academic Sean Turnell is an innocent political prisoner being detained by an illegitimate and tyrannical military junta which reversed democratic elections in Myanmar. Like much other reporting from the West following a fraudulent pandemic and gathering international war clouds, this story contains not an iota of truth. The Myanmar military (Tatmadaw) had no choice but to assume control in February 2021 after it became impossible for any party in Myanmar to win an election apart from the US and UK government created National League for Democracy (NLD). Alongside billionaire anti-socialist regime change magnate George Soros, Anglo/US imperialism has waged a subversive decades long sabotage campaign in Myanmar, as part of an incendiary proxy war against both Myanmar’s independence and neighbouring Red China.[1] Sean Turnell was arrested at a hotel in Yangon five days after the February 2021 “election”, while waiting for a car to take him to the city’s international airport.[2] Like a rat deserting a sinking ship, Turnell was clearly planning to flee the country he was supposedly devoted to “assisting”.

Illegal possession of official secrets

Recently, Australian Labor Party (ALP) Foreign Minister Penny Wong stated that the Australian government has “consistently rejected the charges against Professor Turnell”,[3] and called for his release. Turnell has been sentenced to 3 years in prison, while former “democracy” leader Aung Sung Suu Kyi has been sentenced to 17 years in prison. Turnell was in Myanmar to “advise” the NLD, but he has now been charged by Myanmar’s State Administration Council (SAC) with the illegal possession of official secrets.[4] He was also charged with violating Myanmar’s immigration laws,[5] most likely by overstaying his visa by several years. What advice was Turnell passing on to the NLD and Aung Sung Suu Kyi? An interview he gave in 2017 gives just a flavour. In response to a question about the progress of Myanmar’s “economic liberalisation”, Turnell replied:

“…The floating of the exchange rate back in 2012 was a crucial technical reform, but it was an even more important symbolic gesture in signalling the return of the “market” as a central coordinating mechanism for the economy. Likewise, the new investment laws, the opening up to foreign banks, the expansion of microfinance and the creation of some new institutions all suggested that Myanmar had decisively turned away from the path it had taken in the past five decades.”[6]

In response to a question on how the NLD has “improved rural access to finance”, Turnell stated:

“Improving access to affordable and reliable financial services is a central objective of the NLD…The NLD has devised several policies….. including undertaking a proper diagnostic of the sprawling, state-owned Myanmar Agricultural Development Bank (MADB), and then rebuilding and recapitalising it. Complimenting a revived MADB will be the extension of greater freedoms for private banks to engage the rural sector.”[7]

It is easy to see how Turnell may have had access to internal official economic secrets! Yet the political direction of his “advice” is laid out in the open. At the behest of the NLD benefactors – ultimately the US state department – Turnell lauds the floating of the exchange rate, the “opening up to foreign banks”, the “expansion of microfinance” – which suggested Myanmar had turned away from the economic path it had been on for the previous 50 years. Further, he takes pride in what appears to be the undermining of Myanmar’s state-owned Agricultural Development Bank, by allowing “greater freedoms” for private banks in the rural sector. In other words, the economic liberalisation which the Associate Professor of Economics from Sydney’s Macquarie University trumpets, is good old-fashioned exploitation and plunder of Myanmar by Western finance capital – at the expense of its own economy and state-owned banks.

The five decades that Turnell refers is a large slice of the time since Myanmar’s (then known as Burma) independence from colonial Britain in 1948.[8] The UK and the US ruling classes have never accepted Myanmar’s independence and have set out to undermine and/or abolish it ever since. Originally inspired by socialism, Myanmar’s victorious independence fighters went on to maintain state ownership of key sectors such as banking. This may have flowed from Myanmar being one of the very first world governments to recognise the People’s Republic of China (PRC) after its revolution triumphed in 1949.[9] State ownership of banking or industry in a country they regard as a colony was perhaps tolerated by the West in the 1950s and 60s, but by the 21st century it had become verboten. Today, Myanmar’s economic co-operation with the giant socialistic neighbour the People’s Republic of China (PRC), must be overturned by any means necessary, as far as the deep states based in London and Washington are concerned.

Myanmar-PRC ties

Trade and exchange between Myanmar and China goes back to ancient times, with China exporting tea and porcelain while importing spices, wood and jade from Myanmar. Today, China exports mechanical, electrical and chemical products to Myanmar, and imports sawed timber, agricultural and mineral products. According to the PRC’s Ministry of Commerce total imports and exports between the two countries were $11 billion in 2004 but have ballooned to $168 billion in 2019.[10] Moreover, the PRC’s flagship trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) includes the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC). The CMEC is a 1700 kilometre corridor dotted with strategic infrastructure including roads, railways and ports which will connect Kunming, the capital of the PRC’s Yunnan province, to Mandalay, Yangon and onward to Kyaukphyu in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.[11] The indisputable economic benefits for both the PRC but especially the still developing Myanmar from the CMEC is precisely what the intelligence agencies in the US and the UK seek to disrupt, if not totally derail. Mr Turnell was just one cog in a giant wheel of imperialist sponsored subversion, designed to explode the possibility of Myanmar’s much needed development on the back of friendly cooperation with the PRC.

The notion that the former colonial power and the US state department are deeply concerned for democratic rights in Myanmar is absurd. Their number one priority today is to bring Myanmar completely under the sway of the Anglo/US powers, and break it totally from mutually beneficial economic, cultural and political interaction with the world’s second largest economy, that of the PRC. The “Empire of Lies” will use any means to achieve this, up to and including the fomenting of “the Syrian option”, i.e., funding and arming bloodthirsty domestic terrorists and/or Al Qaeda linked cutthroats. As in Syria, there is a self-declared but fake “government” which claims to be an authority, grandiosely titled the National Unity Government (NUG).[12] The only unity this body has is with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the specialist regime change arm of the CIA. And, as if on cue, the NED laughably claims to also stand for “women’s rights” in Myanmar, even though they refer to the country by its old colonial name, Burma.[13]

The NED itself admits to funding some 57 programs and organisations throughout Myanmar, reaching into most institutions, from the education system, the judiciary, the media, ethnic relations, political campaigning and “human rights” groups.[14] Exacerbating this overt and blatant imperialist interference in Myanmar during Aung Sung Suu Kyi’s administration were two high-level British advisors (Robert San Pe and Joseph Fisher) and one Australian – Sean Turnell.[15] He was tasked with rewriting Myanmar’s economic policy to benefit the West, while San Pe and Fisher worked on overhauling Myanmar’s judiciary and even re-scripting Myanmar’s constitution. Yet Turnell and Co, even if they have never pulled any triggers on weapons, cannot be separated from the so-called “People’s Defence Force” (PDF) and the “Civil Disobedience Movement” (CDM) which are products of the US backed NUG. Even US funded media in Myanmar, such as Myanmar Now has admitted that PDF fighters are carrying out extremely violent armed attacks which take the lives of anyone associated with the government, including traffic police, firefighters and even Red Cross workers.[16]

There is very little difference, in practice, of US imperialism arming and funding ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria, the Nazis of the Azov Battalion in Ukraine, and the armed PDF hooligans in Myanmar. Sean Turnell may not have picked up a machine gun, but he was part of the same ultra-reactionary decades-long plot to vandalise a still developing South-East Asian country to benefit Wall Street and the City of London financiers, and to surround Red China on all sides with hostile regimes. In fact, if the SAC via the Tatmadaw had not resumed control of the country in February 2021, it could just be a matter of time before US or British troops or their proxies would be landing on the soil of Myanmar to set up bases. Needless to say, these bases would be aimed squarely at the Myanmar’s neighbour which is the world’s largest though bureaucratically deformed workers’ state – the PRC.

While working people can offer no political endorsement of Myanmar’s SAC, it must nevertheless be militarily defended against internal and external subversion orchestrated by Anglo/US imperialism. The political tasks for workers in South-East Asia and internationally are bound up with the task of forging genuine Leninist vanguard parties upholding Permanent Revolution. Such parties can lead the masses in a struggle for regionally integrated proletarian states combined with proletarian political revolutions in China, Vietnam and Laos. Western funded vandalism in the Middle East and Eurasia will finally come to an end with the victory of workers’ power unfurling the banners of a new socialist order.



[1] (04-10-2022)

[2] (04-10-2022)

[3] (04-10-2022)

[4] (04-10-2022)

[5] (04-10-2022)

[6]  (04-10-2022)

[7] Ibid, 6.

[8] (04-10-2022)

[9] (04-10-2022)

[10] (04-10-2022)

[11] (04-10-2022)

[12] (05-10-2022)

[13] (05-10-2022)

[14] (05-10-2022)

[15] (05-10-2022)

[16] (05-10-2022)

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